Between Joel Schumacher’s dire “Batman & Robin” and Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins”, acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky was briefly attached to direct a feature-film version of the “Batman : Year One” comic series.
Speaking to Empire, the “Requiem for a Dream” director said one of the major reasons the project fell apart was because he and WB couldn’t settle on a lead.
“The studio wanted Freddie Prinze Jr and I wanted Joaquin Phoenix. I remember thinking, ‘Uh oh, we”re making two different films here.’ That”s a true story. It was a different time. The ‘Batman’ I wrote was definitely a way different type of take than they ended up making.”
At the time Aronofsky was developing his film, Freddie Prinze Jr was a huge drawcard with teenagers. Hot off successful horror series “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer”, Prinze had also become a staple of the youth-skewed rom-com headlining such pics as “Down to You”, “Boys and Girls” and “Summer Catch”.
Though not a superhero or comic book film, Prinze did headline the sci-fi action film “Wing Commander” in 1999.
Interestingly enough, though Phoenix wasn’t a hugely bankable name at the time, Warner Bros would later chase him to play the role of Batman villain The Joker in a 2019 film.
Aronofsky, who went on to direct such films as “The Fountain” and “Noah”, said he was excited to work with Frank Miller on the film – the template of which he compared to gritty ’70s classics “The French Connection” and “Taxi Driver”.
“It was an amazing thing because I was a big fan of his graphic novel work, so just getting to meet him was exciting back then. The Batman that was out before me was ‘Batman & Robin,” the famous one with the nipples on the Batsuit, so I was really trying to undermine that, and reinvent it. That”s where my head went.”